Skip to content

A Tangled Web

Conspiracy theorists were in a snit over an Internet company that manages dozens of lawmakers’ official Web sites blocking bloggers using the popular blogspot domain name from directly linking to the Members’ sites. But, it turns out, there’s a purely technical reason for the block — not the sexier, partisan one that some bloggers suspected. [IMGCAP(1)]

The issue came to light over the weekend, when Lisa Hannah, founder of a blog called Smith Watch, reported that links from her site to Rep. Adrian Smith’s (R-Neb.) site routed visitors to an error page — the online equivalent of a snub. While Hannah was convinced it was a conspiracy to thwart her anti-Smith blog, the Nebraska Congressman actually had nothing to do with it.

Internet company GovTrends handles the sites for 36 Members, including Smith and Reps. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), and that company had instituted a block that prevented bloggers using the blogspot domain from linking to certain sites it manages.

Smith spokesman Charles Isom says it wasn’t the fault of the Congressman or his staff. “It is patently false to say Congressman Smith has ever blocked access to his Web site,” Isom says. “In fact, this office’s Web site has always been available and accessible to anyone who has typed the address into their Web browser.”

Smith’s site started blocking blogspot domains three months ago after GovTrends re-designed it and blocked readers routed from certain sites that could pose security risks, using a “blacklist” generated by Web security company The blocking snafu seems to have been put to rest, at least temporarily. GovTrends unblocked blogspot from linking to Congressional clients on Tuesday, according to the company’s vice president, Ab Emam. But Emam says they’ll be closely monitoring traffic and if spam increases or there is harm to the sites, they could start blocking again without warning.

A Bee in Their Bonnets. House staffers were buzzing on Tuesday about “The Daily Show” mock reporter Samantha Bee’s appearance around their fair campus. HOH spies saw Bee and a camera crew busy filming Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) as he waited to order lunch from the wrap stand in the Longworth House Office Building’s food court. Kucinich was taking part in a skit for The Daily Show, his spokeswoman tells HOH. In the skit, Kucinich acts as a line-sitter (much like those folks who line up for seats in hot-ticket hearings so well-heeled lobbyists don’t have to) for Bee in the cafeteria.

In real life, Kucinich, who’s a vegan, frequently queues up (without a line-sitter) for a no-meat wrap at the same joint.

Bee was also spotted interviewing real, professional line-sitters who were waiting in line for a hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building earlier in the day.

No word on whether Kucinich also does DMV lines.

Casting Call. The spoofy group Billionaires for Bush is looking for a hayseed-chomping, overall-wearing farmer to be the poster child in its mock fight to repeal the estate tax.

But if it doesn’t find the right farmer who meets the criteria for fighting against the tax — and the group doesn’t think it can — it’s planning to give a poorer farmer a blue-blood makeover. “It will be like ‘Rich Eye for the Poor Guy,’” says Al Formee, who calls himself a senior fellow at the Institute for the Preservation of Dynastic Wealth.

The irony-heavy solicitation for a farmer who will “front for the nation’s elite” plays off what Billionaires for Bush says is the inability of anti-estate tax groups to find a real, live farmer to match up with their oft-used argument that the estate tax hurts family farms. And if they can’t find such a willing and qualified spokesperson, the spoof group is planning to find a farmer who wouldn’t qualify, then give him an on-screen makeover that would make him eligible for the proposed tax cut.

“We would give them enough land and enough money, and they would of course need some accouterments,” Formee says of the video they will produce for YouTube. Sounds to HOH like an episode of “Green Acres,” only in reverse.

Bait and Switch. In example No. 237 of why not everything you read on the Internet is true, visitors to Web sites like and were surprised to find the bulk of postings on those sites actually slammed the candidates instead of lauded them, according to Wired magazine. On the Thompson forum, for example, a poster named “Chuck Manson” felt confident that Thompson would set off explosives in Iraq, the magazine says. “We’ve got bigger and better [IEDs], and we need to start using ‘em!”

The only candidate who appears to have escaped the Web sneak attacks so far is Ron Paul, which the magazine suggests could mean that the ruse was the work of Paul supporters.

Some say the sites are examples of why people should approach online sources with a healthy dose of skepticism. “The rise of these organic houses of mirrors on the Internet are clearly over-the-top and misleading,” says GOP online media strategist David All. “However, that’s pretty clear to any responsible observer. It’s just another case of the need to look before you cross the street in the modern world.”

Pots, Kettles and Earmarks. Clearly, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has a different definition of “big” than the rest of us. When a gaggle of reporters asked Murtha Tuesday about earmarks in the defense spending bill, Murtha downplayed their importance — despite the fact that he’s considered the most prolific earmarker in the chamber. “It’s not big with me. That’s big with you guys,” he said, apparently without a trace of irony.

Murtha instead tried to keep the spotlight on a topic a little less controversial. “What’s big with me is the future of the country,” he added.

Briefly Quoted. “Was Brad Pitt unavailable to play me?”

— Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), in an e-mail to the Orlando Sentinel, expressing disappointment that actor Antoni Corone, not the hunky superstar, would portray him in the now-in-production HBO film “Recount,” about the 2000 Florida presidentual recount.

Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.

Submit your hot tips, juicy gossip or comments here.

Recent Stories

Capitol Ink | Big Lie redux

Capitol Hill insiders share their favorite books to read in 2023

Tom Coburn was the ‘semitruck for a lot of people,’ says Rep. Josh Brecheen

Carter funeral, Rustin biopic show lives getting deserved reexamination

‘It’s time’: Departing Nadler chief Amy Rutkin will launch her own political consulting firm

‘Shrugged off and ignored’: Lawmakers disagree on how to ease pain of election churn